Friday, October 28, 2011

Yellowstonage and The Hole of Jackson

Growing up, I heard about Yellowstone so much that I was sure I had it pictured perfectly in my mind.
Those are always the ones that surprise you the most.

Derek and I had decided to go to Yellowstone over his fall break a couple months before, and we invited a bunch of people to go with us. Of course everyone had bailed by the night before, and we were super mad because we needed all the people to cut the cost down for us. After a few hours of sulking, we decided we didn't care about the money and we were just going to go by ourselves. So we did!

We got there late and checked into our crappy little hotel. Of course there wasn't a hot tub, which is super odd since that’s always the first thing Derek checks when booking our hotels. So, we snuck into the Best Western's hot tub and learned all about the must see areas from a fellow hot tubbing dude.

The next morning we got up, had McDonald's breakfast (Mcgriddle...YUM!) and headed into the park.

As beautiful as it was with all the snow, I hope we get to come again at a different time of year. Utah gets cold and snowy enough, that I don't think we needed to get a head start on winter. Plus it was slightly overcast and foggy for most of it, and therefore we didn't get the best view of the Tetons.

My favorite tree!!

I love how you can see steam coming up in the distance everywhere you look. It's actually kind of eerie to think about all the hot, active land under us.
Derek is absolutely fascinated by it. I think it's adorable.

The thing that surprised me the most about Yellowstone was how insanely large the park is. I was picturing like a small area of hot spots and pools all fenced in, not a land mass larger than Rhode Isalnd and Delaware combined. Another surprise was all the adorable buffalo roaming about. I love the idea of National Parks, so much amazing wildlife is preserved and protected. It makes me so happy to see all those buffalo free to do what they please without being affraid of us.


Good Old Faithful

 After spending the day in the park, we ate at the Old faithful Lodge, compliments to a Mr. Jensen, and then headed towards Jackson Hole. We checked into crappy hotel # 2 and then walked around the town all bundled up. We loved Jackson Hole. Such a cute little Cowboy town.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oh, The Colors of Fall

Our beautiful Sunday drive through Alpine Loop. One of the many "Annual Jensen Family Traditions" that I have been lucky enough to join. This tradition is shared with many other Utahns as well, because Utah is so gorgeous in the fall. 
Growing up in Southern California, where it jumps from summer to winter, I really appreciate the changing seasons that we get here in Utah. All the colors on the mountains are so vibrant that they almost don't look real. Sometimes I imagine planes flying by and dropping buckets of paint along the mountains.

One of my favorite parts of this drive is seeing all of the quaking aspen. They are such a unique looking tree.  As much as I hate to admit it, lately I have been loving all the carvings on them. Fancying myself a sort of tree hugger and all, I do feel bad about this new obsession.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Our European Adventure Cont...


I will start off by saying that Derek and I had the most unbelievable time in Paris. I'm not saying that Paris is better than any of the other cities we visited, but for some reason or another we really enjoyed it, and are positive we will go back someday. Our first day there we wandered around kind of lost and confused for a few hours waiting for our CouchSurfers to get home. Later we found out we were walking in completely the wrong direction, towards the lower end of Paris. Our CouchSurfers, Olivier and Chloe, were this really cute couple from Normandy, that were studying in Paris. They had another couple staying with them at the same time, so we slept on a blowup mattress in the living room. We walked all around Paris for a couple days, and saw Notre Dame, The Louvre, Saint Chapelle, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and Versailles. There are so many amazing things to see, I'm surprised we saw what we did. It just so happens that my birthday occurred while we were there, so we had a really nice dinner, and sat in the park by the Eiffel Tower watching it sparkle. It was a very fabulous and romantic birthday. Possibly my favorite night in Paris was when we met Chloe, Olivier, and a bunch of their friends at the Sacré Coeur (Montmartre) for a picnic. After, we all walked around a different part of the city and saw Moulin Rouge. Paris was so full of life in every single way. Between the beautiful history on every corner, the delicious pastries, the night life, the gorgeous language, and the laid back sense of togetherness; we had decided that’s all we need in life. Needless to say, we did not want to leave Paris.

With our CouchSurfers, Chloe & Olivier


We saw Chicago! With Christie Brinkley! My dad loves her.

We took another long train to Paddington Station where we caught another to Oxford. By this point, it felt like all we were ever doing was taking trains and subways. Which is funny because we probably took more subways in London than we did in every other city combined. Oxford is such an adorable town. There is so much to see, and so much interesting history. The whole place is basically the University of Oxford. All of the colleges are spread throughout the city, and most are open to the public. The major tourist area was Corn Market Street, which didn't allow cars and was lined with shops and restaurants. Connected to Corn Market is the covered market, my favorite place! The rain is not allowed in the covered market.
For the 4th of July we went to London and met a bunch of Carl's American friends at probably the only Tex-Mex place in England. Carl gave us the grand tour which was basically the "Royal Wedding Tour". We started to notice that most of the famous sites were somehow related to the wedding, and surprisingly enough Carl knew all the information about it. This is not something he's proud of. Being in England for more than two weeks, we saw nearly every inch of Oxford and got to know London fairly well. We met a lot of Carl's friends, who were amazingly fun and intelligent people. It was sad to leave because we knew that this was a segment in our life ending. It is very possible we may never see these people again, or experience such an adventure.
We will always have Facebook though. Which, at least, lets us pretend to still be friends with lost segments of our lives.

Our European Adventure was a once in a lifetime experience that we will remember forever. We may have lost some of our savings, and I may have lost some positions at work but we have no regrets. It was all worth it.
One thing I want to take out of this experience is the reassurance of how possible travel is. Not just for the wealthy or the lucky but for everyone. College students like Derek and I. Save up for a year or so, plan it out the cheapest way possible, and do it! All it takes is motivation. CouchSurfing was one of the coolest parts of this trip, and everyone can do it. All it took was us deciding that seeing the world was a priority for us.  Hopefully there will be many more adventures to come.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Our European Adventure

I'm finally doing it. I'm going to give my best efforts in regenerating all the wonderful memories we made in Europe. Please bear with me; this is not going to be an easy task considering how long it has been that we've been home.
The morning of June 14th, Derek's dad drove us to the SLC airport and sent us on our way. With giant backpacks in tow, we began what turned out to be the longest, most dreadful day of our whole trip. Of course we already knew that this was going to be the case because it was our fault. Earlier in our research we discovered that a plane ticket from SLC to England was much cheaper than to Rome. So, regardless of the many obstacles this would create, we chose to go with the cheaper.
After about 11 hours and a layover in Boston we arrived in the London Heathrow airport. Now we had to find our bus (2 hours long) to London Gatwick Airport where we caught our plane to Rome.

We made it to Rome, found Carl, (Derek's brother who lives in Oxford) and checked into our little shack of a hotel. The room was large enough to fit a bed, and that’s about it. We had about 7 channels on our television, mostly in Italian, and a view of the many antenna covered rooftops. It was perfect, because all we wanted to do was sleep for the next 3 days. Thankfully we had Carl there to help us keep perspective. After 3 days in Rome we felt pretty satisfied with our visit. We saw a lot of amazing ruins, ate a lot of pizza and pasta, and did enough walking to last me a life time. Note to self: No one cares how cute your shoes are, but it will be embarrassing when your husband is carrying you back barefoot, with bloody ankles.

This is us in a super tiny, rickety elevator

On the morning of June 18th we left Rome and headed for Positano. Two trains and a long, winding bus ride later we arrived to the most gorgeous little beach, tourist town I could ever dream of. This whole town was built on a hill, so there was only one winding road going down and back up the other side. Walking down to our Villa with our backpacks was not so bad, but all I could think about was when we would have to climb back up. When we saw our villa we were all blown away. It was so much better than the pictures. It was exactly what we would have wanted an Italian Villa to look like. Of course, this was by far the most expensive leg of our trip, but splitting the cost with 4 other people helped a lot.

Our one expensive meal on our last day in Positano

Positano was perfect in every way except for the beach. It was very hot almost every day, and since the beach had rocks instead of sand it was hard to walk or lay on the beach. The water was fairly cold and there were never waves. Still we enjoyed soaking up the sun, and watching our English/Scottish friends lather in sunscreen. We took two day trips while staying in Positano. One was to a fancy town in the Amalfi coast called Rovello, and the other was to Pompeii. Pompeii was definitely one of the highlights of the whole trip, but getting there was not so good. We had to take the winding bus ride again, which Carl has a really hard time with considering his history with motion sickness. About two minutes into the ride I started to feel sick, so I sat up at the front with Carl. Five minutes after that I had barfed all over the bus floor and Carl got the heck out of there. So I'm barfing and crying for the next 30 minutes on the bus, while Derek rubs my back. That’s for sure in the top ten most embarrassing moments for me. Barfing in public was not on the Euro trip checklist. Ironically enough, Carl ended up being okay, no thanks to me. Most of the other days we just wandered around the many glamorous shops, and wished we could buy stuff. We took turns cooking up cheap pasta meals for each other, and learned that you can buy a giant carafe of wine for practically nothing in Italy. I could really get used to cheap pizza and gelato every night, but Derek was about to kill someone for a burrito.
Leaving was not quite as difficult as I had anticipated. We found several series of stairs that wind through the innards of the town and take you to the top much quicker than the road. Although I do consider stairs one of my arch enemies, even without a backpack on, I had no choice but to follow everyone up. We all split up at the train station. Carl, Derek, and I headed through the Alps to Zurich, Switzerland; and Christain, Jamie, and Alice headed back to Oxford.


Taking the train through the Alps was one of the most extraordinary things I have ever experienced. The best way for me to describe it, is to say that it doesn’t look real. It reminds me more of a train set you get when you’re a kid and you set everything up all perfectly. Gorgeous green rolling hills, with perfectly placed trees, and colorful homes all surrounded by water. Our amazing CouchSurfing host, Tom, met us at the train station in Zurich. We were so glad because train stations are very confusing when you don't speak the language. Plus he had to help us with our money exchanging issues, and getting lockers for all our baggage. He took us out on the town for a few hours, and we got our first kebab. We had such a good time with Tom. We wanted to take him home with us. We had separate rooms, and mattresses to sleep on. He fed us coffee, tea, and all the bread and spreads we could ask for. Tom took us on a hike through the Alps, where we saw lots of cows and a famous monastery. We barbequed on the lake just outside of his flat, and he taught us how to make chocolate bananas. Delicious!! Our last day at Tom's we took a much overpriced train to Lucerne, but could only spend an hour there before we had to meet our next CouchSurfing host, Reto. Unfortunately, we had not heard from Reto all day and were beginning to panic. We didn't have internet, phone service, or any extra money to spend. Finally, Reto texted that he was sick and had gone to the hospital earlier. He wanted us to stay somewhere else but we had nowhere to go. The cheapest hotels in that area were almost 500 francs a night. Eventually we swallowed our pride and called Tom. Of course he was so unbelievably nice and insisted that we come back and stay with him. We were so relieved. Feeling a little awkward knowing that we were putting him out, we got there to Tom making us homemade Tiramisu! Our extra day with Tom was spent at this awesome and slightly dangerous water park.

At Rhine Fall, a really huge, scary waterfall.

The next morning we met up with Reto at a supermarket by the train station. He bought tons of food for a bbq at his place and wouldn’t let us pay for any of it. Reto was the kindest person, and it was not awkward even though we didn’t understand half of what each other were saying. He had a gorgeous home with a pool and lots of land with goats. Carl left early the next morning, headed for oxford, and Derek and I left for Paris. Yay!!

Tune in shortly for Paris and England.....

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Worst Blogger Ever Award...

Goes to me. Yep, it's been like 3 months since I've posted. I’m really hoping to get back in the swing of it but the problem is that my job is slightly different than it was before I left for Europe. Before, I was able to blog at work on occasion, and now that particular occasion is much less frequent. I am aware of the fact that by admitting to this being the reason for my absence, I am also admitting that I am a very lazy blogger. We all know I have plenty of time at home to simply jot down my everyday musings, but I just don't do it. Point being, hopefully this will change, starting now.

Derek and I returned from Europe on the 18th of July, and drove straight to California to see my family. We literally had one day at home to rest and readjust. After almost two weeks in California we were finally back and ready for ordinary life again. About two days after that we were missing and ready for fun, and exciting again. Now, 3 months later it feels like Europe, and the whole summer in general, is long lost history. It’s funny how time works. But instead of dwelling on the conclusion of our Europe adventure we’re going to get a head start on our next summer adventure. To end on a happy note.

Oh, and don’t worry I plan to dedicate a post to Europe. Or maybe to each city for that matter. It was far too extraordinary to be skipped.

Just a sorta newish pic of us